More excitement around Casa de Ninj this summer: the high-bush blueberries are producing!
Regular readers will recall that last year was pretty much a crapfest in the wee orchard: no peaches, no pears, no cherries, a handful of blueberries and a few measly apples. Pffft. Hardly worth the countless hours I spent hand-picking beetles off all the trees.
Of course, all this misery was courtesy of Mother Nature, who is a fickle broad indeed, giving us a killing late spring frost in 2012 -- as if we hadn't gone through enough cold all winter. Similarly, this summer she has given us unseasonably cold temperatures alternating with blistering heat and seemingly endless rain. For cripes' sake, it's mid-August and I'm still waiting on the tomato harvest; if we don't scoot this along, my unripe tomatoes will be touched with frost before I can eat them.
But it turns out there's a silver lining to all this craptacular weather: the blueberries are thriving.
I'm done complaining. We only have four blueberry bushes and I have already harvested at least six quarts, with many more out there just waiting for me. We have oodles, even with my sharing them with the birds this year (we're all peacefully co-existing now that I've started feeding them and gave them some bitchin' bird baths).
So I was delighted when the week's "assignment" from Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'Em Up Fruit for the From Scratch Club's virtual book club turned out to include blueberries.
I already put up some of what I'm calling Black and Blue Jam this year, using the aforementioned blueberries and a boatload of wild black raspberries foraged from the edges of our woods, so I wanted to try something other than jam. Behold: Sherri's book offered up blueberry vinegar!
I was hesitant at first because I wasn't sure how I would use blueberry vinegar. Sure, it would make a delightful vinaigrette, but how many fruity salads could I count on eating? I took the plunge when I read that the vinegar could also be used to make a refreshing blueberry shrub.
Are you familiar with shrubs? An old staple -- back from the Colonial days when soda and lattes weren't options -- shrubs are a bit of flavored vinegar (2 tablespoons in a tall glass) mixed with water (in this case, seltzer), which yields a surprisingly refreshing beverage. Vinegar. In a beverage. Who knew?
The vinegar couldn't be simpler to make (see recipe below) and it makes enough so that you can share it with a lucky friend.
And, of course, what with The Ninj being The Ninj, I'm planning to throw some vodka in there and see what a shrubby cocktail tastes like. I'll keep you posted.
Do you make flavored vinegars? What's your favorite? Leave a comment: The Ninj wants to know.
Blueberry Vinegar (from Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'Em Up Fruit)
2 cups blueberries
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup sugar
Place a quart canning jar in a pot of nearly-boiling water for about 10 minutes to sterilize it. Drain and put the blueberries in the hot jar.
Meanwhile, place the vinegar and sugar in a small pot and bring it to a boil (stir it to dissolve the sugar). Pour this mixture into the jar over the berries. Place a large square of wax paper over the mouth of the jar and then screw on the lid (the paper prevents the lid from rusting). Shake the jar and place it in a cool, dark place for about a week. Be sure to shake the jar daily.
After a week, strain out the blueberries and store the vinegar a clean jar or bottle. The vinegar will keep at room temperature for a few months (and even longer in the fridge).
To make the shrub, add a tablespoon or two of blueberry vinegar to a glass and top with seltzer water and ice. Give it a little stir and enjoy!